Scarred croupier awarded $185,000
Casino Canberra. Photo: Rob Homer
A former Casino Canberra croupier has won more than $185,000 after an incident with a rowdy patron and an earlier robbery left her psychologically scarred.
Jenny Winbank won on Friday a negligence claim against her former employer after the ACT Supreme Court found the casino failed to take precautions to protect a vulnerable employee.
Ms Winbank had worked for the casino for more than a decade when the incidents occurred in March and June 2008.
She was closing a blackjack table in the early hours of March 21 when a man lunged over the table, snatched a handful of $100 chips and bolted. He was caught trying to cash the chips a few days later.
Ms Winbank told the court she was shocked by the incident, and that casino security had become lax to the point where there was no security officer in sight at the time.
Two or three days later she was verbally abused by a gambler, and she later saw a doctor, complaining of nervousness, anxiety of fear.
The plaintiff eventually returned to work in June with a recommendation that she do only light duties including inspecting, Pai Gow dealing and chipping.
On the night of June 22 she was working as an inspector in charge of blackjack, poker and pontoon tables.
A drunk punter, after being warned about his behaviour, started verbally abusing her and called her a ''stuck up little b----''.
''He threatened to jump over the rope separating the customer area from the staff area within the oval of the tables,'' Master David Harper said.
''The plaintiff said that she felt physically afraid for her safety. She became dizzy and was struggling to breath. She was sweating and felt as though she might choke.''
In the aftermath, Ms Winbank was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and a major depressive disorder.
At the hearing last year the casino's lawyers argued a pre-existing mental health condition contributed to her continuing health problems.
But Master Harper said the casino knew the plaintiff was vulnerable when she returned to work in June.
And he was satisfied the casino could have taken precautions, such as putting Ms Winbank in a low-risk gaming area, to alleviate the risk.
''I have no doubt that the probability of the plaintiff being involved in an incident likely to cause her mental harm would have been negligible if such precautions had been taken,'' he wrote. ''The precautions could have been taken without any particular burden on the casino or its other staff.''
Master Harper found the casino breached its duty of care, and awarded the plaintiff $185,237 largely in damages and past lost earnings.
Ms Winbank, through lawyers Maurice Blackburn, said the judgment opened up education options and allowed her to pursue a career in medical research.
''Before this all happened I was confident, happy, I was on top of the world,'' the 33-year-old said.
''Now I have no confidence, I can't sleep and I have nightmares,'' she said.
''The judgment is a great outcome for me but you can't buy back that peace of mind.''